It's a common idea - though one I never see in practice - that it's better to hire someone based on her character and general intelligence and then teach her the skills she needs for the specific job. Because anyone can learn the skills but not everyone has the drive and dedication to do a good job.

With this idea in mind, I have posted entries on this blog about the relationship between service in the military and a young person's potential to be a good employee. Also about the ability of some tough people to withstand torture. The idea was that if someone displays commitment and guts in extraordinary situations, she or he would be bound to excel in everyday life.

For this reason, I was puzzled by the televised pleas of Margaret Hassan for the British government to save her life when she was captured by a gang of Iraq anti-government thugs. This was a woman who had dedicated her life to helping others in a third-world country. She did not leave the country when the war started. Nor when the kidnappings started. I would have thought that she would show the same kind of toughness as Fabrizio Quattrocchi.

Fabrizio Quattrocchi was murdered in Iraq on April 14th. In the moment before his death, he yanked off his hood and cried defiantly, “I will show you how an Italian dies!” He ruined the movie for his killers.

Then I thought about the Moscow Trials in the 1930s. Stalin put many of his old comrades, the Old Bolsheviks, the people who had led the Russian Revolution, on trial for conspiracy to aid the Nazis in the overthrow of the Soviet government. It was unbelievable that they would do such a thing and the whole world was amazed when every one of them confessed.

Arthur Koestler explained the confessions as a final act of loyalty to party unity. But others say that they were due primarily to torture and threats against the families of the victims.

A Canadian woman, Fairuz Yamulky, was also kidnapped in Iraq but managed to escape. She revealed that the kidnappers had showed her videos of the torture and murder of other victims and told her that she would be getting the same treatment. In the long interview I saw, when asked if she was sexually molested she refused to answer the question which, to me, means "yes".

I assume that this is the same thing that happened to Hassan. I see her pleas as a natural result of this treatment. And I assume that they mean nothing about her character in general. Inotherwords, while I do suspect that a person with a "strong character" will display similar behaviour in a wide variety of situations, it is carrying the idea to absurd lengths to believe that a hard, dedicated, selfless worker will show no response to pain in extraordinary circumstances.

Some readers will likely think this topic ridiculous or even disrespectful but since I'd thought about it before - though merely in a historical context - I wondered about again it when I saw it happening in the present and was moved to comment. I hope that this happens to none of us and that those who are captured are spared.

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